Tuesday, March 10, 2009

[Tour] University of Tennessee

This is the second time so far on the tour that we had more audience members than seats. I swear we're not getting there early just to remove seats. But I'm getting ahead of myself.

Woke up feeling, for a moment, fully refreshed. I then found that I had slept about 5 hours, and felt immediately tired again. I took a nap (does that even count as a nap when it's so soon after having been asleep?) and when
I woke up, decided to go down into the lobby and do some serious writing. The whole gang came out after a while and I thought "hey! I have my poems, I don't even need to go back to the room? I am a Mensa quality genius." Turns out that I had forgotten both my chapbooks and the address book we are going to use to allow people to sign up. But I wouldn't realize this until much later.
We met up at a BBQ restaurant overlooking the river with an administrator and professor from UT. We ate and chatted. I ate a BBQ pulled pork sandwich and confirmed some kind of darkly fermented suspicion of everyone that I am too in love with pork. What have I become?

From that point we drove to UT to set up our camera equipment, which we're beginning to be pros at, it would seem. And by we, I mean Bernard, who is like the Jean Claude Van Dam of camera work. Take that as you may. But he's really very good.
Bianca needed her chapbooks, which was apparently a nightmare, but with which she displayed great optimism and non-diva-ness. Ricardo needed a car charger for his dead phone and tapes for his camera. We ran out of time to get my chapbooks. Obviously, by this time I had realized I was an idiot and forgot them. But no one at UT knew that, they just thought I was an idiot who never had any chapbooks.

The reading went very well, I think. Norman drove 5. FIVE hours to read with us, and was as usual a joy to watch. Bianca did that one poem that pretty much makes me want to retreat into my poetry shell it's so damn awe

some. Which one? Buy her book. Coming soon. Bernard was frazzled from having ODed on caffeine, but that only made his blurring image that much more impressive behind those cameras. Ricardo killed it so bad that he had groupies, and Frank was Frank, which is to say he managed to mix the dirty work in gracefully with the entertainment/poetry. This is very much under-appreciated, because you don't want to see the boring black hole that would be created if I was trying to promote Pluck, explain our website, get the fundamentals of our writing group understood, etc.
The real joy of the night was the dialogue. We have done them before, but this was my first real chance to answer a question posed directly at me, which was both terrifying and exhilarating at the same time. Now's my chance to explain my opinion, but also my chance at ruining a poem someone enjoyed by making a fool of myself. But all in all it was really awesome. I spoke with a publisher about his books, a student about how we address sterotypes without catering to them, a grad student about her paper on multiracial affairs (I really hope she contacts me, her paper sounded right up my ally. Or allies, I guess), and a number of other people.

After Frank and Ricardo frightened us with the level
of fanaticism they have over their fraternity (I don't even feel bad about that after the jibing I got at dinner. hahaha) we took photos in the lobby and had a long discussion about the writing process and the reading process. And the dialogue itself. More on all this on my other blog, on our Affrilachian Facebook fan page.

We drove to a pizza place... the Mellow Mushroom. It
was like an acid head's dream in there, giant mushrooms, strange dragon filled wall paintings.... I ordered hummus for the first time, delicious, and an avacado hoagie, double delicious. We left after a while, and I got to the writing. Which brings us to the prompt for the day:

If Appalachia were a person with a family, a personality, the body of a person, tastes, and so on, what would that person be like

Good question Bianca... Let's see...

Knowing Your Mother

If Appalachia had one Morehead, it would molt wisdom like feathers
great plumes of it would fold back on themse
lves like tall-tales
and strike the ground running so fast
the news would miss it and act like it never happened at all
or maybe Appalachia is so brittle it would fracture under the pressure
of any more demand, buckle like a can into its

Or maybe Appalachia would
make with what he has
which is a proud face with freckles he is ashamed of at times
and at times beholds with such fierce pride that they are named,
this one Knoxville, that one Jackson, Berea, Lexington
each one forgotten by the countenance of his w
hole face
by those who are not kin and see in a textured face
ugliness instead of stateliness and in tradition backwardsness
instead of culture.

It is a beautiful face even after what they have done to it
left it in Hazard in the best of times and in th
e worst
the craters of deep pock marks that so severely scar his skin
that he is unable to look in the mirror without remembering
in the back of his mind why it is that tradition withstands
long past the dark dwelling of machinery.

Appalachia is angry sometimes, hurt, bitter, ha
ppy, sweet,
he is all things, his skin bleeds a
ll colors
his hands rough in the winter and smooth in
the spring
or forced to roughness in the spring and smooth despite the winter,
Appalachia is too many facets to describe with a word
too many tones to play on a single string.
because how do you let your children know who your mother was
if you're only given a handful of words
how can they know her in a sentence
when it took you a lifetime of words
to know.

Oh yeah. I got paid!!!

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